|Aerial security service||- Aerial Security|
A terminal at Heathrow Airport
A gas fired power generator at Didcot Power Station, from Google Earth
A node in the UK National Power Grid, from Google Earth
The extent of fires is readily determined, using both visual and thermal imaging.
Industrial complex just outside Philadelphia Airport
Under a project sponsored by the Police Research Group in the UK Home Office, a representative of the UK police is conducting a concept and feasibility study on UAV utility for police service.
Police Sergeant Steve Cheeseman of Surrey Police, spoke exclusively to Unmanned Vehicles on his project objectives and current research requirements. The views expressed here are personal.
" My interest in UAVs was sparked by a visit to the 1998 Farnborough Air Show, with a sergeant from Surrey's Joint Air Support Unit, where two rotary wing UAVs were on display (the Vigilant Observer and Fuji's RPH-2). I then started work in my own time primarily to look at UAV utility just for Surrey.
" Every year, the Home Office runs a Police Research Award Scheme whereby police officers can submit a project suggestion via their own Force to the Home Office for sponsorship. This is a joint project between the Home Office and my Home Force (Surrey) although the finance is completely provided by the Home Office."
PS Cheeseman estimates that the project will be completed by Summer 2001, when a written report and video showing UAV footage will be submitted to the Home Office for assessment. The Home Office will then decide whether forces should consider UAV technology for their own use.
" I would like it to be be given as wide an audience as possible, particularly the video, which will crystallise people's thoughts," explains PS Cheeseman. " The project has now evolved into a concept and feasibility study to see whether unmanned technology has any place in the police service. Potentially, the project results will, via the Home Office, reach the police service in England and Wales."
Cheeseman submitted the project application in November 1999, fourteen months after the initial UAV sighting at Farnborough. The project concept was submitted moved up to very senior management level, including the assistant Chief Constable, before being authorised for Home Office funding in January 2000. The project officially started in February 2000 but has since evolved, as Cheeseman explains, into a study with a difference.
" At the start of the project was a workshop for successful Home Office applicants. One result of this was that that the project evolved from the original submission (an examination of rotary wing UAV platforms) to also include studies of fixed wing and lighter-than-air platforms. We have also included the video idea, to be submitted with the main report, to show various police forces examples of UAV systems and footage. The video can be circulated to the police service to ask if they are aware of this technology and to establish what can be done now using unmanned technology locally deployed.
It should be remembered that around 26 police forces in the UK already have their own, or access to, air support units. Manned rotary wing assets include MD 902 Explorers, Eurocopter EC-135s, AS-355s and Agusta A-109 Powers. Some forces, such as Hampshire and Cheshire, also have access to manned fixed wing assets (such as PBN-2A Islanders) with much higher endurance levels.
" Whilst these assets may be expensive, they can provide a service now," Cheeseman cautions. " If you set that advantage against a more limited UAV system, you're comparing a product that is already established and can do an awful lot now with an evolving technology that may have greater scope in the future. My view would be that, for UAVs, the cost would be critical."
Cheeseman has also extended the project due date to incorporate skeleton documents due out from the UK Directorate of Airspace Policy for potential UAV operators.
" I would be interested to see this document because there it may highlight regulatory issues that the police service would need to know to progress the concept further. Our absolutely essential requirement for UAVs to enter police service would have to be safety. The way that traditional aviation has evolved, effectively the entry level for UAVs has to be much higher. Failsafe systems are a must - if the police were to become an operator and something happened, not only would it be damaging for us but also for the UAV industry.
" One of the concerns generally from the air support community is that, at the moment, UAVs are not regulated for specifically and so their use would be very limited compared to the current helicopter option. The view I would take is that this technology is complementary and part of the project should be to identify whether existing provision meets existing demand."
Cheeseman welcomes contact from UAV manufacturers or operators and has also requested video footage from manufacturers who believe that their systems would be applicable for law enforcement applications.
" I need video material from the UAV industry that would be useful. I want as many different types of system examples as possible. Part of the project would be to determine what current UAV systems are geared up to the end user and I would guess that most of those are military systems because of their role and the type of equipment on board. It might be that manufacturers have developed certain systems now that would be applicable to the civilian market and we want to know what capabilities they have. "
Brian Brimmell, Kent Constabulary's Technical Services Manager, laid out some ideas in the February 2000 issue of Unmanned Vehicles magazine for UAVs to assist law enforcement operations. He envisages operations starting simply with small vehicles flying within line-of-sight of the controller on the ground in lightly poulated rural areas. They would most likely be equipped with a stills camera, daylight TV sensor and a live video downlink.
More sophisticated UAV systems with multi-sensor payloads, which boast greater range and endurance, would make them capable of beyond-line-of-sight missions at higher altitudes. One such mission might be prolonged surveillance of suspect premises, before a raid for example, flying a pre-programmed pattern. Being relatively small and quiet, they would be less conspcious than a manned aircraft. Such vehicles could also be put to similar use for disaster management or, when fitted with a PA system such as Sky Shout, for the policing of very large crowds.
Small VTOL UAVs could be particularly useful in urban surveillnace or crowded terrain. In sieges in which an armed suspect is holding hostages accurate, timely information can save lives, Brimmell argues.
Steve Cheeseman can be contacted on 1560@Surrey.Police.uk . Please cite uvonline.com when making contact.